Rahul Gandhi is a self-proclaimed Brahmin and Narendra Modi is a certified OBC. Nobody is denying this fact. But no court has given OBC status to fugitive businessmen Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi. So, how have they become OBC in the BJP’s harangued narrative?
Rahul Gandhi’s April 2019 speech in Kolar, Karnataka mentioned three names: Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi, and Narendra Modi. The first two stocked money through hawala in foreign countries and now live in London after fleeing India. They have huge international business networks. Do they have OBC certificates too?
From 23 March onwards, BJP leaders have been running a campaign against Rahul Gandhi on TV channels and social media platforms, calling him a habitual ‘OBC abuser’. The Congress is not known to be a die-hard OBC-loving party. It never promoted any pro-Mandal leader to top positions either in the country or within the party. But just to corner the Congress now, the BJP has turned Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi into OBCs.
I first heard this narrative from Union labour minister Bhupender Yadav, an OBC, during a news debate on 24 March. Thereafter it caught up through all layers of the party. BJP president JP Nadda, Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan and other senior ministers started repeating it. If Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi are OBCs, then the whole OBC community should be ashamed now.
Also read: Who are Modis? Community ‘defamed’ by Rahul has nomadic origins, came to Gujarat 600 years ago
BJP’s anti-OBC history
After Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014, the BJP consciously started using the OBC card because the community, the largest vote bank in the country, can alone keep the party in power.
The anti-OBC history of BJP and RSS has not been exposed since the Mandal movement started. The BJP did not support the OBC agenda at any critical moment in the struggle for reservation. But to counter Rahul Gandhi, it is assigning the proverbial OBC certificate to everyone with the Modi surname.
Do all Modis belong to the oil-pressing Modh-Ghanchi-Teli community? Where is the evidence based on caste census, which the BJP is opposed to?
Only Akhilesh Yadav, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and an OBC, is calling out the BJP’s narrative by constantly talking about how Yogi Adityanath, the current chief minister of UP, had insulted his Shudra/OBC status by getting the CM bungalow sprayed with Ganga Jal after taking over the reins from Yadav. The BJP, and particularly its OBC prime minister, never objected to this inhuman and casteist practice of his party’s CM.
But today, the party is playing on this narrative that Rahul Gandhi hates the community. Perhaps it seeks to placate the community offended by the language used in Ramcharitmanas against the Shudras/OBCs?
It was in this context that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat talked about how caste was not created by God but by priests. Bhagwat also said that the shastras (ancient Hindu texts) need to be reviewed.
Also read: Rahul Gandhi disqualification poses question. Who owns Constitution: Parliament or courts?
Private sector quota and Modis
It is true that the Congress intellectuals never talk about caste, as if it doesn’t exist. Since the BJP and RSS are operating around the Hindu religion in opposition to the secular narrative, they have to face the caste challenge without losing power. And that is why they are imposing an OBC nationalist narrative by roping in anti-national characters like the fugitive businessmen Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi into the OBC list.
The UPA government at least proposed a caste-based reservation in the private sector and constituted a committee headed by former Karnataka CM Veerappa Moily to convince the stakeholder. All major Indian industries opposed the proposal. Not a single Modi running a big business in India showed their support or offered jobs to the OBCs. Even after the BJP had an OBC prime minister in the driver seat, it did not propose such a reservation.
Caste status cannot be manipulated to deceive India’s toiling masses. Most OBCs of this country constitute the Shudra agrarian and artisanal masses. There is no doubt that the oil-pressing community in pre-modern industrial times was also an artisanal community. But that status cannot be tagged to everyone with the Modi surname. It doesn’t even warrant a legal or social argument. For example, the Chaudhary surname is found in many communities in India, and not all of them belong to the same caste.
Also read: Lower, lowered, Shudra or OBC caste—What to call more than half of India’s population?
Agenda for vote bank
On the one hand, the BJP and RSS are opposing anti-caste laws in India and in countries like the United States and Canada. The RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya and the BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav, who is one of the main functionaries of the RSS, wrote against Seattle’s anti-caste discrimination law and movements in Canada. And on the other hand, the party is using the OBC agenda for vote purposes.
Other than the fact that Narendra Modi of OBC caste is allowed to become the prime minister of India, the BJP or RSS has not taken any concrete step to further the cause of the OBCs of India. Their stand on the issue must be questioned.
It’s not as if the Congress has any serious positive practice and stand on the OBC question. But it never used the community like the BJP and RSS are doing. If the same trend continues, it is the OBCs who will end up losing the most.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist, and writer. He has been campaigning for English medium education in rural and urban government schools of India since the last thirty years. Views are personal.
(Edited by Ratan Priya)